No one’s getting high on the new Cannabis Laws

We only need to go back to June, when the cannabis market for food and beverage was said to quickly reach ten billion Baht and the cosmetic industry, around several billion Baht. Instead, recreational use has received most of the attention and the potential heavy-handed response to the bludgeoning recreational cannabis market may delay any rush to “green gold.”

The new draft law on cannabis, including its production and commercial use, is currently being considered by the Parliament. Some details have recently emerged in the media and there is some speculation on the final form of the legislation.

We now know that the law will allow Thai people to register, without paying any fees, to grow up to 15 cannabis plants, regardless of their THC content, for household use. People would also be allowed to grow up to five rai (approximately 8,000 square meters) of hemp plants per household for personal use.

The extension of restrictions to low THC hemp (medical hemp with THC content of less than 0.2%) marks a few steps backwards from the previous policies, and it will be interesting to see how far the new act limits hemp growth and sales.

For business and commercial purposes, the proposed Act will mean anyone who grows, processes, or extracts THC or CBD from cannabis must obtain a license. The terms and requirements for these licenses aren’t clear, but it is almost certain pure recreational use will not be allowed.

The penalties for failure to obtain the correct grow license varies from no more than five rai of cannabis being liable to a jail term of no more than one year and/or a fine of up to 100,000 to larger operators subject to a jail term of no more than three years and/or a fine of up to 300,000 baht.

Commercial growing is to be restricted to Thai nationals aged at least 20 years old, while legal entities that want to grow cannabis commercially must be owned and operated by Thai nationals.  This means that, presumably, the majority of shares (previously stated as 66%) and 2/3rds of the Directors must be Thai.

Others allowed to register, grow, and prescribe cannabis include hospitals, medical practitioners, dental practitioners, Thai traditional medicine practitioners, applied Thai traditional medicine practitioners, traditional Chinese medicine practitioners, state agencies, the Thai Red Cross Society, and animal hospitals. Although these institutions and practitioners can supposedly make medicines from cannabis without seeking permission, how these bodies will ultimately be regulated and how they will be able to prescribe cannabis-based therapeutics isn’t clear.

In keeping with practice in other countries, and to counter UN criticism of Thailand’s radical face on Cannabis, it seems a “light touch medicinal” regime may be foreshadowed where cannabis will be available but only if deemed to have therapeutic, not recreational, benefits.

Extracting, producing, and importing cannabis and hemp, or cosmetics with cannabis or hemp-based ingredients, will be subject to separate and additional legislation.

Section 37/1 of the bill will strictly prohibit online advertising of any product containing cannabis (presumably with THC content greater than 0.2%) as well as ban the sale of any equipment used for smoking cannabis. Selling cannabis and cannabis-based products online or through vending machines will also be prohibited.

Consistent with present restrictions, Section 37 of the Act bans the sale of cannabis and hemp, as well as extracts and food with cannabis and hemp as ingredients, to people aged less than 20, pregnant women, and women who breastfeed children. There will be civil and criminal penalties.

It is a turn around that now medical hemp may be caught by increased regulations, and we will need to see how broad these new restrictions will be in practice given medical hemp had previously enjoyed only light restraints.

The sale and use of cannabis will continue to be prohibited in temples, religious premises, schools, parks, educational institutes, public parks, and other premises like restaurants declared by the Public Health Minister.

The new act tries to restrict the consumption of the plants to medical use (however that is defined) at home or a limited number of well-regulated venues which will dramatically reduce avenues for the sale of recreational cannabis. This is supposedly to better protect non-users from exposure to its second-hand smoke and vapors.

Contact us to learn more about the proposed Cannabis laws in Thailand as they emerge and how to set up a business in Cannabis.